"The Crucible," Vocabulary from Act 3

The accusations fly in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." The play's dramatic retelling of the Salem Witch Trials where the truth gets obscured by sensational charges of possession by demons echoes the crusade of Senator Joseph McCarthy to root out communists, which was occurring while the play was being written.

Learn these word lists for the play: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4

Looking for more Arthur Miller vocab? Find lists from Death of a Salesman here.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. scorn
    reject with contempt
    Martha Corey’s Voice: I do not hurt them. I scorn it!
  2. remorseless
    without mercy or pity
    Judge Hathorne enters. He is in his sixties, a bitter, remorseless Salem judge.
  3. affidavit
    written declaration made under oath
    Then let him submit his evidence in proper affidavit.
  4. deposition
    a pretrial interrogation of a witness
    Proctor, reaching into his jacket: She has signed a deposition, sir--
    "Deposition" also means "the act of removing a powerful person from office"--while this definition is not intended in Proctor's words, it is suggested in Parris's accusation: "They’ve come to overthrow the court, sir!" The deposition contains Mary Warren's statement that she had never seen any spirits, and if believed, it would depose the leading accuser (Abigail) and the judges (Hathorne and Danforth) who were brought in from Boston especially for the trials.
  5. vile
    morally reprehensible
    Excellency, you surely cannot think to let so vile a lie be spread in open court!
  6. concealment
    a covering that serves to hide or shelter something
    We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.
  7. extravagance
    the quality of exceeding the appropriate limits of decorum
    I understand well, a husband’s tenderness may drive him to extravagance in defense of a wife.
  8. undermine
    weaken or impair, especially gradually
    There lurks nowhere in your heart, nor hidden in your spirit, any desire to undermine this court?
  9. imperceptible
    impossible or difficult to sense
    Danforth, now an almost imperceptible hardness in his voice: Then your purpose is somewhat larger.
  10. briskness
    liveliness and eagerness
    Danforth, with a sudden briskness of manner: I judge you not, sir. I am ready to hear your evidence.
    Despite the statement of being "ready to hear" and especially since he interrupts Proctor in the middle of a sentence, the briskness Danforth suddenly displays here is closer to brusqueness ("an abrupt discourteous manner") than to lively eagerness.
  11. discontent
    make dissatisfied
    And I think you will want to know, from each and every one of them, what discontents them with you!
  12. befuddle
    be confusing or perplexing to
    This is a sharp time, now, a precise time--we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.
    As a judge, Danforth should not be befuddled, but his complete lack of befuddlement at what's good and what's evil actually makes him a bad judge, because most people and situations are not as precise and sharp as he'd like to see them as.
    Compare with "confounded" in this list--a confounded witness such as Mary should befuddle the proceedings, but Danforth threatens her into his vision of Proctor compacting with the Devil.
  13. conspiracy
    a secret agreement to perform an unlawful act
    Without confidences there could be no conspiracy, Your Honor!
    Here, "conspiracy" is synonymous with "compact" (see list for Act 2), with the exception that Parris is referring to secret agreements between two humans as well as those between the Devil and a human. Linked to conspiracy, "confidence" becomes a negative word; in its definition of "a secret that is entrusted to another" the focus is on the secrecy rather than the trust.
  14. anonymity
    the state of being unknown
    Old man, if your informant tells the truth let him come here openly like a decent man. But if he hide in anonymity I must know why.
  15. prodigious
    very impressive; far beyond what is usual
    There is a prodigious fear of this court in the country--
  16. reproach
    express criticism towards
    Reproach me not with the fear in the country; there is fear in the country because there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!
  17. effrontery
    audacious behavior that you have no right to
    This is a court of law, Mister. I’ll have no effrontery here!
  18. immaculate
    without fault or error
    Excellency, I have signed seventy-two death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.
  19. probity
    complete and confirmed integrity
    Unless you doubt my probity?
    The pun on "probity" can be seen in its Latin roots: "probare" means "to test" and "probus" means "good"--although Danforth is asking whether Hale doubts his integrity, as a judge who's in charge of interrogation, he's also asking whether Hale doubts his ability to do his job.
  20. sublime
    inspiring awe
    Cheever waits placidly, the sublime official, dutiful.
    The chosen definition gives the adjective an ironic tone, especially since it contrasts with the adverb "placidly" ("in a quiet and tranquil manner"). Since the official is also described as dutiful, the use of "sublime" as an adjective might be closer to the definition of the word as a noun: "an ultimate example."
  21. callous
    make insensitive; deaden feelings or morals
    Then you tell me that you sat in my court, callously lying, when you knew that people would hang by your evidence?
  22. perjury
    criminal offense of making false statements under oath
    I will tell you this--you are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it.
  23. apparition
    a ghostly appearing figure
    Your friend, Mary Warren, has given us a deposition. In which she swears that she never saw familiar spirits, apparitions, nor any manifest of the Devil.
    "Manifest" is short for "manifestation" which means "an indication of the existence of some person or thing" or "an appearance in bodily form"--both definitions make the word nearly synonymous with "apparition" and "spirit" and all three words could be connected to the Devil.
  24. guile
    the use of tricks to deceive someone
    But if she speak true, I bid you now drop your guile and confess your pretense, for a quick confession will go easier with you.
  25. contemplation
    a calm, lengthy, intent consideration
    He charges contemplation of murder.
  26. afflict
    cause physical pain or suffering in
    You say you never saw no spirits, Mary, were never threatened or afflicted by any manifest of the Devil or the Devil’s agents.
  27. gleam
    a flash of light
    Hathorne, with a gleam of victory: And yet, when people accused of witchery confronted you in court, you would faint, saying their spirits came out of their bodies and choked you--
    The gleam makes Hathorne seem evil, and this is supported by the fact that he's gleaming at a victory in an argument against a young girl, which would prove that the accused are witches.
  28. deception
    a misleading falsehood
    Is it possible, child, that the spirits you have seen are illusion only, some deception that may cross your mind when--
  29. hysterical
    marked by excessive or uncontrollable emotion
    With a hysterical cry Mary Warren starts to run.
  30. slovenly
    negligent of neatness especially in dress and person
    Were she slovenly? Lazy? What disturbance did she cause?
  31. fancy
    have a particular liking or desire for
    I came to think he fancied her.
  32. awed
    having or showing a feeling of mixed reverence and wonder
    But Abigail, pointing with fear, is now raising up her frightened eyes, her awed face, toward the ceiling--the girls are doing the same--and now Hathorne, Hale, Putnam, Cheever, Herrick, and Danforth do the same.
  33. transfixed
    having your attention fixated as though by a spell
    She is transfixed--with all the girls, she is whimpering open-mouthed, agape at the ceiling.
  34. unperturbed
    free from emotional agitation or nervous tension
    Abigail, unperturbed, continuing to the “bird”: Oh, Mary, this is a black art to change your shape.
    The Latin "turbare" means "to throw into disorder"--as the source of the disorder, Abigail is not perturbed by the disturbances in the court. Unperturbed in the face of Mary's pleading, Abigail puts on a show that is meant to convince her observers she sees a harmful spirit, but actually emphasizes to the audience how coldly she can turn on someone who goes against her.
  35. mimic
    imitate, especially for satirical effect
    Abigail, now staring full front as though hypnotized, and mimicking the exact tone of Mary Warren’s cry: She sees nothin’!
  36. confounded
    perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements
    Mary Warren, utterly confounded, and becoming overwhelmed by Abigail’s--and the girls’ utter conviction, starts to whimper, hands half raised, powerless, and all the girls begin whimpering exactly as she does.
  37. unintelligible
    not clearly understood or expressed
    Mary utters something unintelligible, staring at Abigail, who keeps watching the “bird” above.
  38. allegiance
    the act of binding yourself to a course of action
    Will you confess yourself befouled with Hell, or do you keep that black allegiance yet?
  39. quail
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud--God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!
    Compare with "flinch" in the list for Act 2--earlier when Hale was pleading with Francis not to flinch, he still had faith in the justice of the court. But here, as Proctor laughs insanely and accuses everyone, including himself, of quailing and failing to call the court out for encouraging fraud, Hale does not flinch at the outburst, because he agrees.
  40. denounce
    to accuse or condemn openly as disgraceful
    Hale, starting across to the door: I denounce these proceedings!

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